Was A.W. Tozer incorrect on sovereignty? Today’s query arrives from a listener named Josh. “Pastor John, hello! I am a Christian of only a handful of years, and am mastering extra about Calvinism and election in my research. My query is: To what degree are our actions and day-to-day stroll with God predestined? If I recall appropriately, A.W. Tozer believed providence was like a cruise ship. The ship’s final location is settled and particular (that is providence). But on the open water, what we every do on the ship is open to our personal cost-free volition. So, Pastor John, how significantly of our day-to-day life is sovereignly directed by God?”
On the Cruise Ship
Properly, I appreciate A.W. Tozer, but that is a poor analogy. Sorry, A.W. My answer to the final query — “How significantly of our day-to-day life is sovereignly directed by God?” — is all of it, down to the tying of your shoelaces and the brushing of your teeth, which I’ll attempt to show from the Bible in just a minute.
“All of life, down to the tying of shoelaces and the brushing of teeth, is directed by God.”
There are a number of complications with this proposal that says life is like a cruise ship whose location is sovereignly decreed when the life on the ship is not sovereignly decreed. Here’s the 1st challenge. It implies that the selections we make in life on the ship do not have any decisive impact on the outcome of our lives — the location of the ship. That is not correct.
Hebrews 12:14 says, “Strive [on the ship] for peace with every person, and for the holiness without having which no a single will see the Lord.” See the Lord is the arrival at the location. But if you have no holiness on the ship, there will be no location in heaven. Disconnecting sovereignty more than the location from sovereignty on the ship is unbiblical.
Here’s a different way to say it. This is the very same point but a various angle as to why this is an unbiblical proposal. The Bible is pervaded by teachings that God’s sovereign handle is full, not partial. It governs just about every aspect of nature, just about every aspect of history, national life, individual life — practically nothing, definitely practically nothing, is outdoors God’s sovereign governance.
Now, the way he controls all issues may well differ. No matter whether it is extra or significantly less direct or extra or significantly less indirect, extra or significantly less by active intrusion or extra or significantly less by tactical permissions — nonetheless it is, God controls it, and the handle is full and pervasive. Nothing at all in the universe is random or without having divine design and style and objective.
Now, I do not say this due to the fact of any philosophical assumption about the nature of God. I assume philosophical assumptions right here are the nemesis of correct biblical pondering. We should really come to the Bible and attempt to listen to it for what it says without having bringing our philosophical assumptions to it. I’m not saying this due to the fact of an assumption like “That’s what God indicates,” or, “That’s what the human will does or does not need,” or, “That’s what causality is.”
I’m just not even pondering that way. I’m attempting to just come to terms with texts. So let me give you the texts that are governing me right here — or at least give them to Josh so that he can ponder them.
Who Tends to make the Plans?
- “The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue [this is what really happens] is from the Lord” (Proverbs 16:1).
- “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord [this is what really happens] establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16:9).
- “Many are the plans in the thoughts of a man, but it is the objective of the Lord that will stand” (Proverbs 19:21). That is what’s taking place on the ship. That is not just the finish of the ship cruise.
- “A man’s measures are from the Lord how then can man have an understanding of his way?” (Proverbs 20:24).
- “The king’s heart is a stream of water [this would be one of the crew members on the ship] in the hand of the Lord he turns it wherever he will” (Proverbs 21:1).
“God’s sovereign handle is full, not partial. It governs just about every aspect of nature, history, and individual life.”
Now, all these texts refer to ordinary, on-the-boat choice-creating. If what Josh indicates by our choices becoming open — that is what he stated: “open to cost-free volition” — is that we have ultimate self-determination on the ship, nicely, the answer is we do not. There is no human ultimate self-determination. Only God has ultimate self-determination. We are cost-free in the sense that we can do what ever we select, but eventually God governs what we select. We are not God, and we can’t veto God.
That is what Job had to understand in 42 chapters of warfare with God. Lastly, he concludes in Job 42:two, “I know that you can do all issues, and that no objective of yours can be thwarted.” No objective of God’s can be vetoed by a objective of man.
What we assume is random in this globe or uncontrolled, the Bible says is from the Lord. It says issues like Proverbs 16:33: “The lot is cast into the lap [we would say the dice are rolled on the board], but its just about every choice is from the Lord.” That is selecting a random factor and saying, “No, it is truly not random from God’s viewpoint.”
God’s Remedy to Worry
If you are bothered by all these texts coming from the Old Testament — which you shouldn’t be, but if you are — here’s Jesus’s way of saying the very same factor. Jesus says in Matthew 10:29, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not a single of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.”
I assume the explanation he chose two sparrows and a single of them just dropping dead off a branch in a jungle someplace is due to the fact that just appears to be the least important factor in the globe. This is like a bird dying in a forest someplace that only God knows about. That is truly random and insignificant. Jesus says, “Well, you may well assume it is random, and it may well be insignificant, but it is controlled by your Father.”
“Even the hairs of your head are all numbered,” he adds. And then he tends to make the superb application: “Fear not, consequently you are of extra worth than several sparrows” (Matthew 10:30–31). “Fear not, consequently . . .” In other words, the sovereignty of God more than the particulars of the universe and our lives is meant to take away worry. The handle of God our Father — our fantastic, loving Father who performs every little thing with each other for his glorious purposes and our fantastic — should really make us bold as a lion.
God Schedules Your Days
I would say the book of James, in the New Testament, is practically pondering the very same way that Josh is pondering — namely, we’re on this boat, and the query is, Are the random, seemingly insignificant tiny issues we select on the boat governed by God?
“The sovereignty of God more than the particulars of the universe and our lives is meant to take away worry.”
James says, “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and invest a year there and trade and make a profit.’” So, you assume you are going to go someplace on this ship. But James adds, “Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that seems for a tiny time and then vanishes.”
Now, right here comes the answer to how detailed God’s governance of the behavior on the ship is: “Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will reside [that is, we won’t die on the cruise] and do this or that.’” That is, we’ll go to the prime level of the ship, or the bottom level of the ship, or we’ll stand in the sun currently, or we’ll consume at six:00 or five:00 currently, or what ever. We’ll do this or that if the Lord wills. “As it is, you boast in your arrogance” (James four:13–17).
It appears to me that James is saying there is meticulous, full sovereignty more than our living, more than our carrying out this or that. The objective of it is not only what Jesus stated — namely, courage — but humility. It is arrogant not to assume this way about our cruise behavior.
The Assist We Will need
Right here is a single final observation. If you assume that you can be faith filled, obedient, and holy on this cruise ship without having the sovereign enabling of God, then you do not know your personal sinfulness, and you do not know the preciousness of the perform of the Holy Spirit on the ship. There’s only a single hope of pleasing God on this cruise ship, and that is the sovereign perform of the Holy Spirit.
It is just baffling to me — in truth, it tends to make me mad — when Christian teachers attempt to take the sovereignty of God away from the nitty-gritty battle for holiness, which is every little thing in our Christian life. Here’s the essential text for me. Hebrews 13:20–21:
Now may well the God of peace who brought once more from the dead our Lord Jesus, the wonderful shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with every little thing fantastic that you may well do his will [here comes the key part], operating in us that which is pleasing in his sight, by means of Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
Certainly, amen. To him be glory, not just for finding us to the location by sovereign decrees, but also for enabling us to do every little thing fantastic that we have to do on this ship. The ship is the location exactly where we reside, exactly where the glory of God will shine or not shine. To take the sovereign perform of the Holy Spirit, by which we are enabled to do what pleases God, away from the ship is crazy.
Appear at 1 Corinthians 15:10–11: “But by the grace of God I am what I am [on this ship], and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked [on this cruise ship] tougher than any of them, even though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.” The location on the ship and all of our life on the ship are governed by the a single “who performs all issues [on the ship and in our destination — all things] according to the counsel of his will” — his merciful will (Ephesians 1:11).